Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Obligatory Holiday Post

There was a time when I thought I would create a clever Halloween post with some appropriate music, but that's before I discovered blogs that have been doing that for a month and realized I don't have that kind of interest. Check out Dsico covering Ministry's Everyday Is Halloween and be sure to listen to my favorite Dead Or Alive track "Something In My House":

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Stream Scissor Sisters Halloween Show

Scissor Sisters live show at Brixton Academy on Halloween will be webcast by way of anti-global warming site Global Cool. Here is the info:

To view the webcast simply sign in or sign up with www.global-cool.com before 10pm on Tuesday 31st October, which you can do from the link below.

Those who sign up will not only be able to view the Scissor Sisters’ once in a lifetime fancy dress performance, they will also be treated to unique backstage footage and an exclusive interview with the band.

All we ask in return is that you pledge to turn off your computer at the end of the night.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Free Download: Trentemøller- Always Something Better (Trentemøller Remix)

Trentemøller's Always Something Better (Trentemøller Remix) is a free discovery download this week in the US itunes music store and it's a fantastic piece of gothic electronica that reminds me of Underworld circa-Dubnobasswithmyheadman. Does the name sound familiar? Trentemøller remixed Pet Shop Boys, Röyksopp, Moby and The Knife in the past year and has a had a substantial run creating records for the 12" dj-only crowd. Skrufff recently interviewed him touching on his time teaching music at a kindergarten and getting a bit more in-depth about the motivation behind his album The Last Resort which was released earlier this month:

I’m not making music for DJs, this album was made from my heart, much more than my dance music. Because making dance music involves more workmanship in a way while this was much more personal to me, if people are disappointed, I don’t care.

: Be sure to snag "Always Something Better" while it's still free and check out Trentemøller's myspace to listen to more tracks.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Flashback: Sarah Cracknell "Anymore" (1996)

Sarah Cracknell, the sexy front woman for consistently brilliant Saint Etienne, put out a solo record Lipslide in the UK in 1997, only released in butchered form during 2000 in the US, which was an attempt to distance herself from her apparent "just a pretty face" reputation by proving her artistic and songwriting muscle outside the group. Ultimately the album flopped commercially despite a few fantastic songs on it. She had this to say about why:

I had a lot of trouble with the label I was on [Gut Records]. They weren't very nice to me. It wasn't a great relationship, between me and the label.
I think they were just trying to turn me into something and the thing was I don't think they ever listened to a Saint Etienne album, do you know what I mean? I didn't realize it at the time. It's one of the first thing you'd do, I would think.
So, it was a real struggle and I was very unhappy. I was very happy when the album was finished and I'm proud of it, but they then pretty much didn't put it out. They put it out just about. They didn't promote it at all or do anything.

: I think that's a fair assessment. I remember hearing that they deleted the second single "Goldie" for some odd reason and the maybe-it-exists-maybe-it-doesn't third single "Desert Baby" has the exact same sleeve as the "Anymore" single.

Speaking of "Anymore" I've become re-enamored with the song recently and have been listening to the single on repeat in the car recently. The most striking thing about this Stephen Hague produced the track is just how completely effortless it sounds. Purely electronic for most of the song it has a subtle build that goes from quiet digital pianos to Hague's trademark lush sound with a live Motown-esque horn section introduced in the last third of the song that is just the right thing to take the song to the next level at just the right moment. Even if pop perfection might be a bit of an overstatement it is a great song that deserved a better showing than peaking at number 39 on the UK singles chart. The video has Sarah doing a bit of acting as a pout-prone gas station attendant which doesn't work that well just like most other pop stars pretending to work at dull every-day jobs videos:

: According to some Sarah will next be heard covering Dusty Springfield's "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten" with Marc Almond on his forthcoming 2007 album. Just don't look for any information on his site because it's the most paranoid promotional site that I've ever encountered where you can't copy-and-paste anything from the site and it's "news" section largely consists of denying rumors.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

This Ain't No Disco

After over a year's worth of fuss New York's legendary club CBGB's finally shut down last week. Once the epicenter of the American punk movement the club became a something of a pop culture icon in it's own right after a number of bands playing there in the 70's like Blondie and The Ramones broke through into the mainstream and the venue got a shout-out in a Talking Heads song leading to a the omni-present CBGB OMFUG (it sounds dirty, but actually isn't) clothing that I see people wearing all the time even though I live on the other side of the country. Despite the past year's worth of obituaries and articles lecturing the fine points of the importance of the club Voltage noted that not everyone was sad to see it go or even had fond memories of the place. One generally positive reader response to the Village Voice article that Voltage references points out that "CBGBs in a way was a morgue and a tourist attraction. It became a parody of its former self" which is behind general tone of "good riddance" comments about the closing. Voltage picked a great quote from the negative ones, but I really fond of this response to the haters:

Don't be so negative. If you don't have something nice to say then don't say anything at all.

: How punk rock is that? Mom would be proud that someone is still giving that advice.

Good news CBGB fans, while the music has come to an end CBGB Fashions will remain open at it's current location until the end of the month so there is still time to buy some merch. Now that is the true spirit of punk.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

For A Little While

Pet Shop Boys released “Numb” as a single this week and I’m still a bit ambivalent about the song. I like that it’s different than anything else they’ve done and that it has one of Neil Tennant’s most emotional vocal deliveries but it still doesn’t sit entirely right with me because Diane Warren’s fingerprints are still all over the song making it a little too much not PSB (yes I am aware that I like and dislike the song for the same reason, but that‘s why I‘m ambivalent you see). I’ve previously mentioned that I didn't want the song to be a single because it's edging out better songs that could have better demonstrated the albums strengths, but I have to admit that they did an amazing job creating a solid single package. I picked up the good stuff at 7digital so I can tell you that the two b-sides are utterly fantastic, visit The Zapping if you want proof, and the Ewan Pearson remix of “Psychological” finally makes the song soar in a way that was missing from the original and the Alter Ego mix on the bonus disc of Fundamental. Also of interest is the original PSB demo of “Numb” which clarifies Trevor Horn’s contribution as those futuristic chimes over the quiet moments and amping up the wall-of-sound orchestra. Then there is the creepy cover art with the Boys wearing Plague doctor masks that might be a commentary on our times.

There are two other PSB releases out this week: the two disc live album Concrete and the book chronicling the sleeve designs of the Boys work Catalogue. Both of those are on my maybe lists and if I see them for the right price I’ll pick them up but having listened to the BBC stream of the concert I didn’t find that much to get excited about. Maybe I’m not just a live album kind of guy.

Here is the offical video for "Numb" done in the style of early Soviet cinema. I wonder what gave the video directors that idea?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


LCD Soundsytem were pretty quiet about their new album 45:33 before today so it was a bit of a shock to see a myspace bulletin shouting about a "NEW LCD SOUNDSYSTEM OUT NOW! exclusively on iTunes" when I checked my account this morning. This single track release, with a running time that is the same as the RPM of 7" singles, is the second in the series of nike/itunes workout music releases that started over the summer with a mix from The Crystal Method. Pitchfork quote the press release with James Murphy explaining that he was approached by the shoe company:

to make a long piece of music built around an arc designed for running, appealed to me because it was so anathematic to what you're typically asked to do as an artist: make easily digestible lumps of music for albums, or the radio, or whatever. I'd been thinking of the records I love in which people made one 'song' that took up the entire LP, and realizing that releasing something like this would otherwise be a virtual impossibility for me, I became excited when the project came along.

: Does this making music on demand for corporate giants signal the end of the hipster DFA empire? I doubt it. They've already gotten over the whole almost worked with Britney Spears thing and once you've admitted to that how could you do wrong? The real question is if it's worth the price itunes is charging. I like LCD Soundsystem and their album was one of my most played last year, but $9.99 for one track that you can only hear a thirty second preview of...that's asking a bit much. Admittedly I'm very intrigued by those thirty seconds, and Riff Market was impressed enough to declare "these weird goofy product branding tie-ins, ARE the NEW ALBUM" (wonder why that LCD Soundsystem bulletin linked to that review) but I really like pop songs. Well, if not traditional "pop" all the time, at least something that knows when to finish. There have been exceptions like the extended version of Orbital's "The Box", but usually if a track lasts more than fifteen minutes I just can't get into it. The Orb's "Blue Room" has an hour long version that I've never made it through even though I love the radio edit, and "Video 5-8-6", New Order's original version of "Blue Monday", tops the twenty minute mark and never justifies that running time. So ten bucks sounds a bit pricey when we are talking about a track that "ends with eight minutes of ambient echoing". Here's LCD Soundsystem doing what they do best in a short-form on "Tribulations":

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hot Trend Alert: Live Looping

The question of authenticity has always been an issue with live performance from electronic musicians and it's been one of the biggest complaints of those who refuse to acknowledge the possibilities that technology provides. I recently noticed a number of videos that address this by demystifying the process and recreating the process by looping material live. Here are a few examples:

Kid Beyond hails from the hip hop side of things and this cover of Portishead's "Wandering Star" is fantastic as he creates a fairly dense soundscape only using his voice.

Venus Hum are all about synthpop and here they create the foundation for the song live and work from there.

I had previously mentioned her technique, which is what first brought this trend to my attention, but here is KT Tunstall doing her folk pop thing with a little help from a loop pedal.

Friday, October 13, 2006

You're Back Into The Bog

A recent Tremble Clef post asked if there are any successful Madonna covers and the one that immediately sprang to my mind was BiGod 20's take on "Like A Prayer". Originally appearing on the EBM band's third single "On The Run" it ultimately received more attention from college radio than the a-side or it's remixes in no small part because it transcends it's jokey premise which trades the relative polish of the original for a "scary" industrial sound complete with growling vocals. Do a technorati search and you'll find that it's still getting club play at gothic/industrial nights to this day.

There is more to BiGod 20 than a fun cover but their story is a perfect example of how to remain fairly obscure. Talla 2XLC (who had previously been involved with in even more obscure projects Moskwa TV and The Microchip League) met up with Jallokin in the late 80s and after a couple of primarily instrumental 12" singles they teamed up with Front 242's Jean Luc-DeMeyer to record their industrial classic "The Bog". The song was an international success and got them signed to Reprise who released the single stateside in 1990. The following year saw the release of the Dead Poets Society-sampling "Carpe Diem" but it wouldn't be until 1992 that they finally found permanent vocalist Zip Campisi and released their debut album Steel Works!. Obviously the two year gap between the "teaser" single and the album didn't help sales. Steel Works! also had some strange decisions like including the originally released in 1988 and very much sounding like it "America" while dropping "Carpe Diem" making it less of a great album and more of just a good one. The band's 1994 follow-up Supercute didn't really get much attention, in part because of changing trends in the industrial scene that found guitar-led material more in the mainstream and because the album's only single "One" just wasn't as catchy as their earlier material.

The band drifted apart but they remain active producing music. Jallokin has released material as recently as last year and Talla 2XLC is a working dj and produces more techno and trance flavored material like this 2002 Depeche Mode cover. Here's the video for "The Bog" which is fantastic simply because it helps us remember a time when black rain ponchos were a fashion statement:

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Music From A Wider Angle

Cinematic electronica superstar's Hybrid have a new album out this week and I Choose Noise finds them balancing the dancefloor filling ways of their sophomore effort with the orchestral vision they prominently displayed on their debut. Well, I've never actually listened to all of either of Hybrid's two previous albums but I gather that is the story. It's just that despite the presence of New Order's Peter Hook on a few tracks of their second album and all the hype surrounding their first record which helped them land an opening spot for Moby when he first toured to support Play I've never felt any real passion for Hybrid's music. They seem to be the sort of folks I would like because they do things that interest me like record trance songs with orchestral accompaniment and drop Pet Shop Boys samples in their remixes (or at least in their remix of BT's "Never Gonna Come Back Down"), but their tracks consistently clock in around the eight minute mark and they never have kept my interest that long. Of course their crowning achievement to date has been getting "Finished Symphony" used as the music for the final segment of SSX, the game that "is still one of the prime reasons for owning a PS2". SSX is something I can get passionate about. Hybrid not so much.

Regardless I Choose Noise is a solid effort that overcomes the presence of Perry Farrell, who may or may not be attempting to channel Madonna at one point in his vocal appearance, so feel free to stream the album for the remainder of the week here and see if it sparks a more passionate response in you.

Sidenote: Two years later when Moby was still touring Play he had New Order and Outkast opening for him. What a difference bringing Gwen Stefani on for a guest vocal and a video appearance can make.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Still Alright Then

TrusttheDJ posted a news item about Luke Slater releasing a new EP this November. For those unfamiliar with Slater he's been around the underground techno scene for ages and his early work got him a shout out on Daft Punk's "Teachers" before he even released a proper album. Here's Skrufff's take from the article:

The new tracks feature guitars, electro sounds and Luke’s (somewhat scratchy) vocals on top and are distinctly more eclectic than the techno he’s usually associated with. In fact, as long as five years ago, he was actively distancing himself from the genre, telling Skrufff in 2001 ‘The whole discussion about techno is old news- I am a club DJ’ and in 2002 embraced proper songwriting with ex-Aloof singer Ricky Barrow on ‘Alright On Top’.

“I tend to go for themes that are more abstract whereas he’s more into straight talking. A few of the songs are about ‘leave me alone, I just can’t handle it anymore’, which is definitely a feeling that has cropped up on me,”

: I haven't been able to find any videos from Alright On Top, which is one of my favorite albums of the 00s, but it is a techno pop masterpiece well worth streaming via free services like Napster or Rhapsody. Here's the video for Slater's "Love" from 1997's Freek Funk.

Samples of the Head Converter EP can be found at his own label Mote-Evolver's site.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Something About You (When You're Shopping For Music)

Tower Records was sold in bankruptcy court today to a company that plans to liquidate it's assets and close the chain's doors. Here's the story from The Chronicle:

Peter Gurfein, an attorney representing Tower Records, said the company will be sold for an aggregate of $150 million, including the sale of various leases and properties.

Gurfein said Great American plans to begin the liquidation process and going out of business sales on Saturday, which eventually will result in the elimination of the jobs of some 3,000 Tower employees.

"This is not an easy decision," said bankruptcy Judge Brendan Shannon, who nevertheless noted that the Tower debtors and other parties had agreed the bidding process was conducted fairly and in good faith.

Tower Records, which has 89 stores in 20 states and owes creditors about $200 million, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in August. In its filing, the company said it has been hurt by an industrywide decline in music sales, downloading of online music and competition from big-box stores such as Wal-Mart.

: When I first heard the initial doomsday predictions of the demise of physical record stores some ten years ago I assumed they were ridiculous. My friends and I always ended up at record stores when we went out and nothing could replace the thrill of stumbling into unexpected albums and the social experience of shopping for music. Nothing really has and while I enjoy buying things from download services I still prefer to buy albums as cds and I usually end up at my local Tower so I'm really sad to see the chain go because they were the only reasonably priced place to buy music with any real selection in my immediate area. Besides I have many great record buying memories at a number of Towers across the Bay Area and I can even tell you the general character of them; Campbell is generally strong with one of the best electronic sections, Mountain View is the place to go for music related literature and has a good singles selection, Blossom Hill has good imports, Columbus always gets the good band signings (met the Pet Shop Boys there!), Hillsdale & Dublin are just okay and everytime I've been to Stonestown it's been unorganized with a poor selection. It's a sad day, not only for the 3000 people losing jobs, but for music fans in general because when a well run record store can't compete there is something wrong.

As a tribute here is Lifestyle's fantastic "Shopping For Music" which conveys the romance of record shopping much better than I can.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dynamic Symmetry

I had been revisiting his work recently and today is Brian "BT" Transeau's birthday so why not take the opportunity to look at his recent work. The past year he has seen the release of two BT albums, one being the score to EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 and more recently he has put out a high minded DVD/CD project This Binary Universe. I've been following BT since his Tori Amos collaboration led to his debut album getting a belated released in the US, and while he has ups and downs over the years including the terminally flawed Emotional Technology I've found him worth watching. The Tiger Woods soundtrack sounds like a something he simply didn't invest much time or creative energy into. I don't know that anyone should expect an artistic statement from a golf video game soundtrack but if anything it's disappointing because it has a track titled "Everything's Gone Green" that has nothing to do with the New Order song of the same name. Shame on you Mr. Transeau. You know it's wrong to lead me on like that.
This Binary Universe is definitely the artistic statement of the two releases. A lengthy article in Keyboard magazine, which is quoted as if it were an actual review in the trailer for the project attached to this post, attempts to define the project as:
Seven compositions, each about 15 minutes long, combine acoustic instruments, synth parts played real-time from keyboards, and “cut-and-paste, musique concrète type stuff,”
: all set to visuals created specifically for the project. Ambient symphony is another take on the music and the arty-composer-that-went-to-Berklee side of BT in full effect here. Stop by the album's myspace and watch the second video for a segment from the DVD. It's good stuff and if you don't like it don't worry his next "normal" album is due out early next year. Apparently that has plenty of "beautiful jangly guitars all over it" with guest spots from Imogen Heap (yay!) and Stewart Copeland (boo!).

Fun Fact: In addition to a career in music that has involved much soundtrack work BT was also an Executive Producer on the highly staged reality show "Tommy Lee Goes To College".

Monday, October 02, 2006

In Stores This Week

I'm all for trying something new and in that spirit here are new releases that caught my ear which can be streamed by way of the links for the next week:

Pet Shop Boys- PopArt
New release? Didn't this come out in 2003? Yes, but legal issues left this greatest hits compilation without a home in my country until someone noticed that the Boys would be touring the US this month. No announcement about this yet on the official PSB site so we can assume their not really "supporting" it. The two "new" songs on the disc are nothing short of fantastic and you really can't find a better collection of music just about anywhere. UPDATE: Since this post the only mention of the US release of the compilation appeared on their site: "Three years after its release in the rest of the world, PopArt is finally released in the USA." Obviously they are enthusiastic.

The Killers- Sam's Town
I'm really enjoying this in my first few half a dozen listens, but The Chronicle got a bit snarky with their review:

Could this band be from anywhere but Las Vegas, where imitation is almost as good as the real thing, if not better? Following the success of its synth pop-heavy predecessor, the group rightly sets out to re-create the ultimate arena album in "Sam's Town," drawing on influences like U2, Simple Minds and the Boss -- maybe even a bit of Meat Loaf.

Beck- The Information

Let's take some more insight from the same reviewer at The Chronicle:

Anyway, what we're really excited about is the album cover. It's just a sheet of blank graph paper that comes with stickers of trees, clouds and lips and stuff. You can arrange it however you like, even if you want to spell out rude words or make a mountain do something naughty with Beck's backside.

V/A- The DFA Remixes: Chapter Two

As a rule I generally enjoy DFA's mixes and I happen to like every single act that was remixed on the disc. Good stuff, and the compilation is the best thing, The Juan Maclean album excluded, that Astralwerks has released as a result of it's distribution deal with DFA Records that forced them to put out albums of complete dreck from the likes of Black Dice. Fun Fact: Chromeo just didn't "get" the mix that DFA did for "Destination: Overdrive" so they left it as a free download on their site for almost two years until this compilation was announced and it suddenly had value.